The Psychology of Revolution

Part 6 out of 6

finally sent thousands of priests into imprisonment. They wished
to repair the ruins which covered France, and only succeeded in
adding to them.

Thus there was always a complete contradiction between the
individual wills of the men of the revolutionary period and the
deeds of the Assemblies of which they were units.

The truth is that they obeyed invisible forces of which they were
not the masters. Believing that they acted in the name of pure
reason, they were really subject to mystic, affective, and
collective influences, incomprehensible to them, and which we are
only to-day beginning to understand.

Intelligence has progressed in the course of the ages, and has
opened a marvellous outlook to man, although his character, the
real foundation of his mind, and the sure motive of his actions,
has scarcely changed. Overthrown one moment, it reappears the
next. Human nature must be accepted as it is.

The founders of the Revolution did not resign themselves to the
facts of human nature. For the first time in the history
of humanity they attempted to transform men and society in the
name of reason.

Never was any undertaking commenced with such chances of success.
The theorists, who claimed to effect it, had a power in their
hands greater than that of any despot.

Yet, despite this power, despite the success of the armies,
despite Draconian laws and repeated coups d'etat, the
Revolution merely heaped ruin upon ruin, and ended in a

Such an attempt was not useless, since experience is necessary to
the education of the peoples. Without the Revolution it would
have been difficult to prove that pure reason does not enable us
to change human nature, and, consequently, that no society can be
rebuilt by the will of legislators, however absolute their power.

Commenced by the middle classes for their own profit, the
Revolution speedily became a popular movement, and at the same
time a struggle of the instinctive against the rational, a revolt
against all the constraints which make civilisation out of
barbarism. It was by relying on the principle of popular
sovereignty that the reformers attempted to impose their
doctrines. Guided by leaders, the people intervened incessantly
in the deliberations of the Assemblies, and committed the most
sanguinary acts of violence.

The history of the multitudes during the Revolution is eminently
instructive. It shows the error of the politicians who attribute
all the virtues to the popular soul.

The facts of the Revolution teach us, on the contrary, that a
people freed from social constraints, the foundations of
civilisation, and abandoned to its instinctive impulses, speedily
relapses into its ancestral savagery. Every popular revolution
which succeeds in triumphing is a temporary return to barbarism.
If the Commune of 1871 had lasted, it would have repeated the
Terror. Not having the power to kill so many people, it had to
confine itself to burning the principal monuments of the capital.

The Revolution represents the conflict of psychological forces
liberated from the bonds whose function it is to restrain them.
Popular instincts, Jacobin beliefs, ancestral influences,
appetites, and passions unloosed, all these various influences
engaged in a furious mutual conflict for the space of ten years,
during which time they soaked France in blood and covered the
land with ruins.

Seen from a distance, this seems to be the whole upshot of the
Revolution. There was nothing homogeneous about it. One must
resort to analysis before one can understand and grasp the great
drama and display the impulses which continually actuated its
heroes. In normal times we are guided by the various forms of
logic--rational, affective, collective, and mystic--which more or
less perfectly balance one another. During seasons of upheaval
they enter into conflict, and man is no longer himself.

We have by no means undervalued in this work the importance of
certain acquisitions of the Revolution in respect of the rights
of the people. But with many other historians, we are
forced to admit that the prize gained at the cost of such ruin
and bloodshed would have been obtained at a later date without
effort, by the mere progress of civilisation. For a few years
gained, what a load of material disaster, what moral
disintegration! We are still suffering as a result of the
latter. These brutal pages in the book of history will take long
to efface: they are not effaced as yet.

Our young men of to-day seem to prefer action to thought.
Disdaining the sterile dissertations of the philosophers, they
take no interest in vain speculation concerning matters whose
essential nature remains unknown.

Action is certainly an excellent thing, and all real progress is
a result of action, but it is only useful when properly directed.
The men of the Revolution were assuredly men of action, yet the
illusions which they accepted as guides led them to disaster.

Action is always hurtful when, despising realities, it professes
violently to change the course of events. One cannot experiment
with society as with apparatus in a laboratory. Our political
upheavals show us what such social errors may cost.

Although the lesson of the Revolution was extremely categorical,
many unpractical spirits, hallucinated by their dreams, are
hoping to recommence it. Socialism, the modern synthesis of this
hope, would be a regression to lower forms of evolution, for it
would paralyse the greatest sources of our activity. By
replacing individual initiative and responsibility by collective
initiative and responsibility mankind would descend several steps
on the scale of human values.

The present time is hardly favourable to such experiments. While
dreamers are pursuing their dreams, exciting appetites and the
passions of the multitude, the peoples are every day arming
themselves more powerfully. All feel that amid the universal
competition of the present time there is no room for weak

In the centre of Europe a formidable military Power is increasing
in strength, and aspiring to dominate the world, in order to find
outlets for its goods, and for an increasing population, which it
will soon be unable to nourish.

If we continue to shatter our cohesion by intestine struggles,
party rivalries, base religious persecutions, and laws which
fetter industrial development, our part in the world will soon be
over. We shall have to make room for peoples more solidly knit,
who have been able to adapt themselves to natural necessities
instead of pretending to turn back upon their course. The
present does not repeat the past, and the details of history are
full of unforeseen consequences; but in their main lines events
are conditioned by eternal laws.


Absolute monarchy, the
Acceleration of forces of violence
Administrations, real ruling forces
Affective logic
Affirmation, power of
Alexander I of Russia
Alsace loss of
Ambition, as a motive of revolution
Anarchy, followed by dictatorship; mental
Ancestral soul
Ancien regime, bases of the; inconveniences of; life under;
dissolution of
Ancients, Council of
Anti-clerical laws
Armies, of the Republic; character of; victories of; causes of
Army, role of, in revolution; in 1789
Assemblies, the Revolutionary; psychology of; obedient to the
clubs; see National, Constituent, Legislative Assemblies,
Convention, &c.
Augustine, St.
Aulaud, M.
Austria, revolution in; royalist illusions as to her attitude;
attacks the Republic

Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J., on coal strike
Bartholomew, St., Massacre of; European rejoicing over
Bastille, taking of the
Battifol, M.
Bayle, P.
Beaulieu, Edict of
Bedouin, executions at
Belgium, invasion of
Beliefs, affective and mystic origin of; intolerance of;
justification of; intolerance greatest between allied beliefs;
intolerance of democratic and socialistic beliefs
Berquin, executed by Sorbonne
Berry, Duchess de
Blanc, Louis
Blois, States of
Bonaparte, see Napoleon
Bonnal, General
Bourdeau, M.
Bourgeoisie, their jealousy of the nobles causes the Revolution;
their thirst for revenge; the real authors of the Revolution;
philosophic ideas of
Brazilian Revolution, the
Britanny, revolt in
Broglie, de
Brumaire, coup d'etat of
Brunswick, Duke of, his manifesto
Bureaucracy in France

Caesar, on division amid the Gauls
Caesars follow anarchy and dominate mobs
Cahiers, the
Calvin; compared to Robespierre
Carrier; crimes of, and trial
Catechism of the Scottish Presbyterians
Catherine de Medicis
Catholic League
Cavaignac, General
Champ-de-Mars, affair of the
Charles IX
Charles X
China, revolution in
Chinese labour
Christian Revolution, the
Christians, mutual hatred of
Church, confiscation of goods of the
Civil War
Clemenceau, M.
Clergy; civil constitution of
Clubs, the, 24- psychology of the; obeyed by the Assemblies;
closed; increasing power of the; see Jacobins
Coalition, the
Cochin, A.
Colin, M.
Collective ideas; collective logic
Collot d'Herbois
Commissaries of the Convention, psychology of
Committees, the Governmental
Commune of Paris, the; in insurrection; chief power in State;
orders massacre of September; tyranny of
Commune of 1871
Communes, the revolutionary
Comte, A.
Concordat, the
Constituent Assembly, the; psychology of the; its fear of the
people; temporarily resists the people; loses power; its last
Constitution of 1791; of 1793; of 1795; of the year VIII
Constitutions, faith in
Constraints, social, necessity of
Consulate, the
Contagion, mental; causes of; in crowds
Contrat Social, the
Convention, giants of the; inconsistency of; decimates itself;
psychology of the; cowardice of; mental characteristics of;
composition of; fear in the; besieged by the Commune; surrenders
Girondists; Government of the; abolishes royalty; dissolved
Council of State
Criminal mentality
Crowd, Psychology of the
Crowds in the French Revolution
Cruppi, M.
Currency, paper

Darwin, Charles
Dausset, M.
``Days,''of May 31; June 2; of June 20; of Aug. 10; of June 2; of
Oct. 5
Debidour, M.
Declaration of Rights, the
Democracy; intellectual and popular
Departmental insurrections
Desmoulins, Camille
Dictatorship follows anarchy
Directory, the, failure of; closes clubs; psychology of the;
government of the; deportations under
Discontent, result of
Drinkmann, Baron
Dubourg, Anne, burned
Dumas, President of the Revolutionary Tribunal

Ego, analysis of the
Elchingen, General
Elizabeth, Empress of Russia
Emigres, banished
Empire, the Second
Encyclopaedists, the
England, coal strike in
English Revolution; Constitution

Faguet, E.
Fatalism, historians on
Faubourgs, disarmed
Ferrer, notes on anniversary of execution of
Five Hundred, the
France, kings of; artificial unity of
Francis I
Franco-Prussian war
Freethinkers, intolerance of
French Revolution, the, revision of ideas concerning; generally
misunderstood; a new religious movement; origins of; religions
nature of; descends to lower classes; causes of; opinions of
historians concerning; becomes a popular government; causes of
democratisation; causes of the Revolution; a struggle of instinct
against reason
Fouche, at Lyons

German Emperors
``Giants'' of the Convention; mediocrity of
Girondists, the; late of the; surrendered by the Convention; vote
for Louis' death
Glosson, Professor, experiment in crowd psychology
Governments, feeble resistance of, to revolution; best tactics to
pursue; revolutions effected by
Greek Revolution
Gregory XIII
Guillotine, regeneration by
Guiraud, M.
Guise, Duke of

Hamel, M.
Hamilton, General
Hanotaux, G.
Hatred, value of
Haxo, General
Henri II
Henri III
Henri IV
Henry IV of Germany
Henry VIII of England

Historians, mistaken views of, re French Revolution; opinions of;
Hoche, General
Holland, invasion of
Hugo, Victor
Huguenots, massacre of
Hunter's ancestral instinct of carnage

Iena, explosion on board of
Impartiality, impossibility of
Incendiarism, of Commune of 1871
Inequality, craving for
Inquisition, the
Italy, revolution in

Jacobinism; failure of; modern; its craze for reforms
Jacobins, the; real protagonists of the Revolution; claim to
reorganise France in name of pure reason; they rule France;
results of their triumph; theories of; small numbers of; the
clubs closed,; downfall of
Jourdan, General

La Bruyere
La Fayette
Lanessan, M.
Langlois, General
Latin mind, the
Leaders, popular, psychology of
Lebrun, Mme. Vigee
Legendary history
Legislation, faith in
Legislative Assembly, the psychology of; character of; timidity
Lettres de cachet
Levy, General
Liberte, the, explosion on board
``Liberty, Equality, Fraternity''
Logics, different species of
Louis XIII
Louis XIV; poverty under
Louis XVI; flight and capture; his chance; powers restored,; a
prisoner;regarded as traitor; suspended; trial of;execution of, a
Louis XVII

MacMahon, Marshal
Maistre, de
Marie Antoinette; influence of
Marie Louise
Massacres, during wars of religion; during the French Revolution;
see September, Commissaries, &c.
Mentalities prevalent in time of revolution
Midi, revolt in the
Monarch, position of, under the Reformation
Monarchical feeling
Moors in Spain
Mountain, the
Mystic logic
Mystic mentality

Nantes, Edict of; revoked
Nantes, massacres at
Napoleon; in Russia; on fatalism; on the 5th of October; in
Italy; in Egypt; returns; as Consul; reorganises France; defeated
Napoleon III
National Assembly, the
National Guard
Nature, return to, illusions respecting
Noailles, Comte de
Nobles renounce privileges; emigrate

October, ``days'' of
Olivier, E.
Opinions and Beliefs
Oppede, Baron d'
Orleans, Duc d'

Paris, her share in the Revolution. See People
Peasants, condition of, before Revolution; burn chateaux
People, the, in revolution; never directs itself; supposed part
of; the reality; analysis of; the base populace; commences to
terrorise the Assemblies; the sections rise
Peoples, the Psychology of
Persecution, religious
Personality, transformation of, during revolution
Peter the Great
Philip II
Philosophers, influence of
Plain, the
Poissy, assembly of
Poland, decadence of; revolution in; partition of
Political beliefs
Pope, the
Portuguese Revolution
Presbyterian Catechism
Protestants, martyrs; persecute Catholics; exodus of; mentality
Prussia, invades France
Public safety, committee of


Racial mind, stability of the
Rambaud, M.
Rational logic, seldom guides conduct; original motive in French
Reason, Goddess of
Reformation, the; rational poverty of doctrines
Reforms, Jacobin craving for
Religion, the French republic a form of
Religion, wars of, the
Repetition, value of
Republic, the first; the second; the third
Revision, necessity of
Revolution of 1789; see French Revolution; of 1836; of 1848; of
Revolutions, classification of; origin of; usual object of
Revolutions, political; results of
Revolutions, religious
Revolutions, scientific
Revolutionary army
Revolutionary communes
Revolutionary mentality
Revolutionary municipalities
Revolutionary tribunals
Robespierre; compared to Calvin; High Pontiff; pontiff; reigns
alone; sole master of the Convention; psychology of; his fall
Roland, Mme.
Roman Empire
Roussel, F.
Russian Revolution
Russo-Japanese war

Saint-Denis, destruction of tombs at
September, massacres of
Social distinctions
Socialism; hates the elect
Sorel, A.
Spain, revolution in
States General
Suspects, Law of

Taine; on Jacobinism; his work
Taxes, pro-revolutionary
Terror, the; motives of;psychology of; executions during;
stupefying effect of; in the provinces; in the departments
Thermidor, reaction of
Thiebault, General
Thiers; President
Third Estate, jealousy of the

Tolerance, impossible between opposed or related beliefs
Togo, Admiral
Toulon; fall of
Tuileries, attacked; Louis prisoner in; attacked by populace
Turkey, revolution in

United States
Universal suffrage

Vanity, cause of revolution
Varennes, flight to
Vendee, La
Versailles, attack on
Violence, causes of

Wendell, Barrett
Williams, H.

Young, Arthur


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